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Playlist: Andrea Chase's Portfolio

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I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO -- Raoul Peck Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 23:00

Raoul Peck talks defining moments, constructing mythologies, and finding the right title.

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As we were settling down to talk, Raoul Peck asked me about the name of my web site, KillerMovieReviews.com. When I told him it was a nod to the fact that I take no prisoners when it comes to bad movies, he laughed and said that was exactly the resolve with which he went into making I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO. It shows, This is a documentary that presents James Baldwin as a profoundly original thinker, unfettered by any ideology other than humanism.  Told entirely through Baldwin’s words, some from his unpublished manuscript, Remember this House, some from his writings, some from clips of him on talk shows at a time when such shows were not afraid to be serious, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO traces the man’s intellectual development, as well as his position as an equal-opportunity gadfly, taking both the Black Panthers and the NAACP to task for their failings.

When we spoke on November 7, 2016, is was the day after a sold-out preview screening of his film, and we started our conversation with Peck telling me about his discovery of Baldwin’s writings as the age of 15, and gaining access to the notes for his final novel, Remember this House, being true to Baldwin’s spirit, looking at familiar news footage in a new way, and the difference between narration and performance.

NB: An ambulance siren can be heard in the distance starting at 15:01 – 15:29

At 22:15, Mr. Peck uses the “n”word.

LA LA LAND -- Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 14:08

Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz talk huddling down, keeping the dream, and making things magical.

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I had the distinction of being the first interview for writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz on LA LA LAND press tour.  Not just in San Francisco, but nationally.  It was, I joked, a heavy responsibility.  It was not the only first for them.

The pair were responsible for WHIPLASH, but LA LA LAND was their first collaboration, and the first thing we talked about on October 6, 2016, was how they parlayed WHIPLASH’s success into a chance to make an original film musical.

We went on to talk about J.K. Simmons, who won an Oscar™ for WHIPLASH, and roots in summer stock;  injecting grit into the heightened reality of a musical; and tailoring singing and dancing to stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

We finished up by talking about collaboration and giving up control with Hurwitz describing what it was like to hand his music over to a lyricist, and for Chazzelle to hand over direction of the film’s choreography. 

THE SALESMAN -- Asghar Farhadi Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 12:13

Asghar Farhadi talks gender, catharsis, and the meaning of cats.

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When I spoke (via translator Farzad Ostovarzadeh) with Asghar Farhadi during the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 14, 2016 about THE SALESMAN, one of us (me) fully anticipated that it, like his Oscar™-winning film A SEPARATION, would be nominated for an Oscar™.  Neither of us could have anticipated that when it was, in fact, nominated, Farhadi would not be allowed entry into this country to attend the ceremony because of an Executive Order banning travel to this country by Iranians. He's since said that even is an exception is made in his case, he could not, in good conscience, attend. 

His film follows a couple. Emad and Rana (Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti), as they stage Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman amid a variety of physical and emotional turmoil in their private lives. Things begin to fall apart metaphorically when the building in which they live does so literally, followed by a home invasion when Rana is alone. The resulting obsessive need for revenge on Emad’s part further traumatizes Rana, and eventually pushes Emad over moral lines he could never have considered crossing before.

I started our interview by asking when he had noticed the correlation between Arthur Miller’s New York, and contemporary Iran. We went on to discuss gender issues in Iran, why there are so many cats in the film, why the timing of his Oscar™ win was perfect,

We finished up with Farhadi paying tribute to his filmmaker wife; the reaction THE SALESMAN’s co-star Taraneh Alidoosti received at home and abroad for showing her feminist tattoo at Cannes; and catharsis in both the theater and in life. 

COMMAND AND CONTROL -- Eric Schlosser and Robert Kenner Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 21:37

Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser talk close-calls, young brains, and waiting for a mustache to grow back.

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Any interview that includes the information that the military once misplaced thermonuclear weapons is an interview that could easily unleash torrents of paranoia. But talking with Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser about their latest collaboration, COMMAND AND CONTROL puts it in perspective. I’m not saying all concerns were quelled by the end, but hearing how open, almost eager, the military is to improving the maintenance of their nuclear weapons arsenal is a comfort.

The conversation started with why Schlosser was prompted to explore a non-food issue, and moved on to the structure of a young brain, the small chance that testing the first atomic bomb might have ended life on the planet, and where the nearest nuclear weapon installation is to the San Francisco Bay Area.

We finished up with my asking Kenner, whose last film, MERCHANTS OF DOUBT, explored how issues are spun in the media, his thoughts about the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Their documentary is a minute-by-minute account of an accident at the Damascus missile installation in Arkansas in 1980. Even knowing that a nuclear explosion did not rip a hole in that state does nothing to lessen the tension. With interviews and contemporary footage, we watch as trained and dedicated professionals cope with a situation for which no one was prepared when a dropped wrench set in motion a chain of events that led to two deaths and a wake-up call of massive proportions. 

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST -- Mira Nair Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 13:14

Mira Nair talks multiple identities, defining fundamentalism, and creating dialogue.

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Perhaps there is no one better suited to directing the film adaptation of Moshin Hamid's novel than Mira Nair. She has credit as the director of THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, but she was as involved in adapting the script (a three-year process) as she was in deciding on the casting, and in making sure that the music was as culture-spanning as the story. The story is about Changez, a Pakistani who has made a financial and social success of himself in the world of New York high finance, but is then forced to choose his true identity in the aftermath of 9/11. The scene of him returning from an oversees business trip with his Caucasian co-workers, and being separated from them before a strip-search that is as surprising to him as it is devastating, brings a whole new perspective to the world at that time, and sets the scene for Changez' eventual embrace of Muslim fundamentalism. But, like everything else in the film, it's not that simple. And it's not that straightforward.

This is a film that demands of its audience a rejection of pre-conceived notions and subconscious prejudices. In exchange, it will richly reward that audience with a world-view that is complex, but eye-opening. 

I spoke with the director on October 11, 2012, during the Mill Valley Film Festival, where she was being (rightly) celebrated for her wide-ranging body of work.  Nair is as vibrant as her films, and the conversation moved easily from the experiences her adolescent son has had with American passport control, to the pan-cultural music that is as integral to the film as the story itself. She is a woman who is unapologetic about bringing her vision to the screen, and emphatic about THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST becoming a catalyst for dialogue. You can listen to the interview here.

BIRTH STORY: INA MAY GASKIN AND THE FARM MIDWIVES -- Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 26:12

Filmmakers Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore talk revolutionary medicine, natural childbirth, and the importance of just being nice.

Birthstorywigmorelammfacebook_small Filmmakers Sara Lamm and Mary Wigmore talk revolutionary medicine, natural childbirth, and the importance of just being nice.

ANNA KARENINA -- Joe Wright Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 12:04

Joe Wright talks dancing through class distinctions, the seduction of ego, and the magic of the intangible.

Annakareninajoewrightandhiscarrotfacebook_small Joe Wright's radical version of ANNA KARENINA is perfectly in keeping with his love of classic literature, and his knack for perfectly distilling the one art form into the other.  When we spoke on November 11, 2012, his incisive use of dance to demonstrate the class distinctions of imperial Russia was the first thing I wanted to discuss. We moved on to the actual process of paring away Tolsoy's novel, where both Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard think Tolstoy went wrong, and why Wright will be taking on the theater next year, with both a light Victorian comedy, and a biography of Patrice Lumumba.

FLIGHT -- Robert Zemeckis Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 09:01

Robert Zemeckis talks comic relief, the finer points of injuring a leading man, and the seductive qualities of motion-capture technology.

Flightzemeckisfacebook_small Robert Zemeckis talks comic relief, the finer points of injuring a leading man, and the seductive qualities of motion-capture technology.

TABLOID -- Errol Morris on telling the truth.

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 16:18

Errol Morris on the compelling story of Joyce McKinney, and the fluid nature of truth as seen by several people involved in the Case of the Manacled Mormon.

Tabloidmorrispuckishprx_small Errol Morris specializes in stories that challenge preconceived notions and recieved truth. With TABLOID, he allows Joyce McKinney, the center of a tabloid frenzy involving sex and religion, the tabloid reporter and the tabloid photographer who told the tale to the multitudes in search of salacious story, and a gay Mormon activist who met Joyce after the fact, to tell differing versions of the story that, while often mutually exclusive, may still all be true. In this Morris is telling the viewer about him or herself as much as he is the subject of his documentary. When we spoke on May 3, 2011, he discussed his interviewing style that elicits intimate and unselfconscious disclosures, why the term "simple truth" is an oxymoron, and how Joyce set him off on a reading binge.

ANOTHER EARTH -- Brit Marling Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 16:09

Actor, co-writer Brit Marling talks physics, metaphysics, and duality.

Anotherearthposter_small ANOTHER EARTH is a film that sets the synapses firing with its consideration of identity, reality, and redemption as it posits a reality where the sky is suddenly filled with a duplicate of our home planet. When I spoke with co-writer and co-star Brit Marling on July 14, 2011, the conversation reflected that as it flowed from the confluence of physics and metaphysics, the individual universes of perecption, and the synchronicity of the number four. A soft-spoken woman, Marling has an infectious sense of wonder when speaking of the malleable nature of reality, and the artistry of her collaborator, director and co-writer Mike Cahill.

There are two versions of the interview, the longer includes bonus material about the symbolic meaning of having Africa appear on the second Earth, and a parsing of the words "charity" and "reparation" when dealing with the aftereffects of imperialism on that continent.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Disney animators Mark Henn and Mike Surrey talk to Andrea Chase

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 15:03

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: Animators Mark Henn and Mike Surrey talk to Andrea Chase about the pleasures and perils of returning to hand-drawn animation, as well as what it was like bringing Disney's first African-American princess to life.

Default-piece-image-0 THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG is Disney's first hand-drawn animated feature since 2004, and the first to feature an African-American princess. Animators Mark Henn and Mike Surrey talk to Andrea Chase about bringing the characters to life, the pleasures and perils of returning to a strictly hand-drawn animation process, and the intrinsic value of hand-drawn animation as an art form in and of itself.

Director Lee Daniels on his film PRECIOUS

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 11:35

Director Lee Daniels talks to Andrea Chase about making the film, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE

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Director Lee Daniels talks to Andrea Chase about how he was able to bring his film, PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE, to the screen without compromising his vision. From taking eight years to convince the author to let him transfer the story of Precious to the screen, to casting newcomer Gabourey Sibide in the title role, to convincing co-star Mariah Carey to work without makeup, to warning co-star Mo'Nique that she might lose her fan base, he unfolds a tale that combines angels and trust to make a stunning piece of art that is tough but beautiful.

THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith on their documentary.

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 18:33

Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith talk to Andrea Chase about their Oscar(R)-nominated documentary, THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS.

Most-dangerous-man-updated-film-cover_small Judith Erhlich and Rick Goldsmith both met Daniel Ellsberg in the course of making other, separate films and they both, separately, decided that he would be the subject of their next documentary. Joining forces, the two have made a documentary that does more than recount a watershed moment in American history, it examines what happens when a man of conscience decides to put his principles before every other consideration. During the conversation, Ehrlich and Goldsmith discuss group dynamics, eliciting unexpected moments of revelation from their subjects, getting the news of their nomination, and the ongoing problem of getting financing political documentaries.

THE PERFECT GAME -- CHEECH MARIN on Spanish, sports, and art collecting

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 12:56

Cheech Marin talks about why the story behind THE PERFECT GAME resonates with him so deeply.

Default-piece-image-1 Counter-culture icon, social activist, actor, singer, art collector, and author of children's books, Cheech Marin's career has gone in many directions since he started out as part of the comedy duo of Cheech and Chong. In THE PERFECT GAME, based on the true story of the Monterrey Industrials, he plays a parish priest in 1957 Monterrey, Mexico, with a lot of heart, and a great belief in the power of Little League baseball to give his parishioners the one thing they most need: hope.  When I spoke with Marin on April 1, 2010, he recalled his own days playing Little League in southern California, and the effect it had on them seeing kids who looked like them going to the Little League World Series. He also spoke realistically about his own feelings of seeing the story made in English, not Spanish. We wrapped up our time with Marin telling how he got started assembling what may be the largest collection of Chicano art in the world, and his candid opinions about why Chicano artists don't get the respect they deserve from the acedemic and curatorial world.

THE TILLMAN STORY - Amir Bar-Lev talks about his documentary

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 14:18

Filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev talks about truth, propaganda, and cover-ups in the life and death of Pat Tillman

Bar-lev_small The story of Pat Tillman, who gave up a lucrative pro football career in order to enlist after 9/11, had all the makings of a legend. When he was killed in Afghanistan, the media and the military made him into a hero who gave his life to save his fellow soaldiers. The problem was that the truth was not so simple, nor so glorious. His family started hearing a different story than that told by official sources and started its own investigation despite obstacles thrown at them by the military, and by a media that preferred the myth to the facts.  Amir Bar-Lev found the story irresistable for what it says about our culture. When I spoke to him on July 26, 2010, he was protective of the Tillmans, angry about what they have been put through, in effect losing Pat twice, and astonished about what he discovered while making his documentary.

WIN WIN -- Filmmaker Tom McCarthy returns to his roots

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 14:40

WIN WIN -- Filmmaker Tom McCarthy talks old friends, new projects, and going home again.

Winwinmccarthyprx_small Tom McCarthy returned to his hometown of Provinctown, N.J., for WIN WIN, his third film as a writer/director. The story of a lawyer on the verge of a financial meltdown who makes a rash and unethical choice also gave him the opportunity to revist his favorite high school sport: wrestling. A working actor with a variety of credits to his name, he starts the interview by explaining why he doesn't write parts for himself and then goes on to descibe the unexpected rewards of reconnecting with his best friend from high school, Joe Tiboni, after the lawyer came up with the idea for the film and went on to earn a co-story credit. He also discusses how much trust he puts in his cast, finding a teenage wrestler who can also act, and why Bobby Canavale may be the hardest working man in show business.

ON THE ROAD -- Walter Salles Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 14:56

Walter Salles talks searching for freedom, finding the story behind the book, and bicycling with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Ontheroadsallesfacebook_small Talking with Walter Salles was already one of the great pleasures I’ve had even before he used the word “polyphonic.” In our talk on December 8, 2012, he revealed himself to be a filmmaker as kinetic and passionate as Jack Kerouac’s prose. All the better to adapt ON THE ROAD from Kerouac’s seminal book.  From betraying the source material in order to be faithful to it, to riding a bicycle with Kerouac intimate, Jack Ferlinghetti, Salles’ focus was on getting the mood as right as the tempo of Kerouac’s prose, while maintaining the emotional truth of the story of a young man’s search for freedom in a world of conformity. 

UPSTREAM COLOR -- SHANE CARRUTH Interview.

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 20:39

Shane Carruth talks the illusion of free will, the synchronicity of Thoreau, and his almost collaboration with Rian Johnson on LOOPER.

Upstreamcolorscarruthfacebook_small Shane Carruth talks the illusion of free will, the synchronicity of Thoreau, and his almost collaboration with Rian Johnson on LOOPER.

SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE -- Debbie Lum Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 14:25

Filmmaker Debbie Lum talks facing her fears, keeping the conversation going, and why she ended up as a character in her own documentary.

Seekingasianfemalelumbetterfacebook_small Debbie Lum had spent a lifetime experiencing "Yellow Fever" first-hand. It was not something she enjoyed. In fact, as we talked on March 11, 2013, she revealed that it was one of her greatest fears, which led to the obvious question of why she wanted to take it on as a documentary. Her asnwer, like the resulting film, SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE, was a revelation. Lum focuses on one man, 60-year-old Steven, a man with romantic dreams, but little money, as he searches the internet for true love with a younger Chinese woman. And in our talk, discusses how she became a character in her own film, and how she's not quite ready to leave the issue behind. 

The film starts in one place before taking the viewer, as well as the protagonists, and Lum herself, to unexpected places and forces everyone to re-assess pre-conceived notions and unsuspected prejudices. SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE screened as part of CAAM, the film festival of the Center for Asian American Media to sold-out crowds.

NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER -- Joseph Cedar Interview

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 17:44

Joseph Cedar talks syntactical constructions, identifying with the Court Jew, and the importance of the right shoes.

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Shoes loom large in the story of NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER. So, it was only right that when I spoke with that film’s writer/director, Joseph Cedar, on April 6, 2017, there would be a question or two about the expensive pair that is both the best and worst investment the title character ever makes.

We started, though, with the peculiar relationship that Norman has with the truth, He never quite lies, but he is certainly not being entirely honest, either as he finds himself going from small hustles to having the ear of the Israeli prime minister, and the ancillary influence that such a connection engenders. We moved on to the irony of such a people person being so very lonely; the pleasures and perils of shooting on location on New York City streets, and why fixers like Norman are so necessary to society.

We finished up with how the idea of the Court Jew influenced Cedar’s script; how Richard Gere disappeared into the role; what happened to those designer shoes after filming ended; why simple isn’t necessarily good; and the fluid meaning of the word “macher.”

THE LOST CITY OF Z -- James Gray Interview.

From Andrea Chase | Part of the Behind the Scenes series | 15:09

James Gray talks human nature, the creative impulse, and living through a lightning strike.

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James Gray had his work cut out for him with THE LOST CITY OF Z. He had to find a way to include World War I, upper-crust Edwardian Society, and the jungles of Bolivia, in his adaptation of David Grann’s book about Percy Fawcett’s obsession with finding a lost city in the wilds of Amazonia. The good news is that the result is that most wondrous of hybrids: the intellectual adventure film.

When we spoke on April 9, my first question was about the way his film invites the audience to consider the definition of civilization.

We went on to talk about how contemporary the themes are in a film set in the early part of the 20th century; the vulnerability of indigenous peoples depicted; the mythic quality of Fawcett’s quest; and how yellow legal pads figure into his process.

We finished up with how Gray had to recalibrate the trenches at the Battle of Somme for cinema;  Charlie Hunnam’s fierce commitment to the role of Fawcett; and whether or not a lightning strike on set was a sign from the universe. 


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